A vast number of Department of Defense personnel eligible for security clearance levels of secret or higher owed more than $730 million in back federal taxes as of June 30, 2012, according to a report issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office.
About 83,000 DOD military and civilian employees and contractors owe three-quarters of a billion dollars in back taxes.
The median amount of debt was $2,700, and individual debt ranged from about $100 to millions of dollars, the report said.
Individuals troubled with such debt pose a "potential vulnerability" to security, the report said, although federal law does not prohibit individuals with unpaid federal taxes from obtaining security clearances.
As of October 2013, more than 5.1 million military and civilian employees and contractors held a security clearance, according to data provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to the GAO.
The report found that only about 34,000 of those 83,000 individuals with tax debt had a repayment plan in place with the Internal Revenue Service.
About 44,500 of the debtors were federal employees, while the rest were federal contractors or held a designation by the ODNI as "other," meaning they were neither employees nor contractors, the report said, without further clarification.
The report looked further into a subset of personnel who were not simply eligible for high-level clearance but had actual access.
The report found that about 26,000 personnel with unpaid federal tax debt had access to secret, top secret and "sensitive compartmented" information. These individuals owed more than $229 million in unpaid federal tax debt.
Seventy-five percent of these personnel with high-level access accrued their debt after receiving clearance.